- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2011

There is only one team in the Eastern Conference with a worse record than the 18-56 Wizards, and that’s the 15-59 Cleveland Cavaliers, who will visit the Verizon Center on Friday. But the Wizards still might not have the advantage, as they’ll be playing without point guard John Wall.

The NBA on Thursday suspended Wall without pay for one game after his altercation with Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in Wednesday’s loss to Miami. Wall was called for a flagrant-2 foul in the second-quarter incident, earning an automatic ejection. The league fined Ilgauskas $25,000 and the Heat’s Juwan Howard (who also was ejected) $35,000, but didn’t suspend either player.

That leaves only the Wizards playing short-handed moving forward, a possibility Wizards coach Flip Saunders anticipated before the ruling was handed down.

“Well, we’re used to it, preparing and not being sure if we’re going to have guys,” Saunders said earlier Thursday. “It’s just a matter of getting some of our new guys, Mustafa [Shakur] and O [Othyus Jeffers] comfortable with what we’re trying to do.”

Already comfortable in the Wizards’ game plan is Jordan Crawford, who scored a career-high 39 points against the Heat. With Wall suspended, Crawford will once again see significant minutes at point guard.

“We knew from the draft and in college [at Xavier] that he had the ability to score,” Saunders said. “Some guys in this league can’t get 20 shots off in a game; they’re not talented enough.

“He’s got the ability to create shots. He’s learning. Because we don’t have a lot of scorers, we’ve had to rely on him a lot, and he’s accepted that responsibility and done pretty well.”

Crawford spent a bit of time in the ice tub after Wednesday’s game and is dealing with soreness in his back, but he said he’s confident and ready to go when needed.

“I always thought I was capable. I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Crawford said. “I’m just trying to fill in, do as much as I can, try and get as many wins as I can.”

The Cavaliers were left in disarray when LeBron James left for Miami and are in rebuilding mode as well, but they have plenty of fight left in them. They stunned the Heat on Tuesday with a 102-90 victory, despite a triple-double by James (27 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists).

Perhaps without the revenge factor, the Cavaliers won’t be bringing that same level of passion and energy when they play the Wizards, but they certainly showed they are capable of beating a contending team.

“They’re playing better. They beat Miami; they lost by one [Wednesday] night [98-97 to the Charlotte Bobcats],” Saunders said. “They’re a lot like us. They’ve had situations where they have been in games, but just haven’t been able to finish. So for us, if we don’t have John, we’re going to have to play at a high level.”



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